A physician has (anonymously) spoken out about recent state bills which would require women to submit to invasive transvaginal ultrasounds before being allowed to terminate a pregnancy. Similar bills have been proposed in Pennsylvania, Idaho and Virginia. The Idaho bill has passed the senate vote, although five Republican and seven Democrat senators opposed it, and is expected to pass at the House committee vote as well.
The unnamed physician wrote a sort of manifesto on medical ethics, calling on her or his fellow medical doctors to recall their medical oaths, and refuse to be political tools. It was published on science fiction author John Scalzi’s popular blog, Whatever, who vouches for the qualifications of the writer without revealing identifying information. The opening paragraphs take a similar position to that previously adopted by Doonesbury writer, Gary Trudeau:
I do not feel that it is reactionary or even inaccurate to describe an unwanted, non-indicated transvaginal ultrasound as ďrapeĒ. If I insert ANY object into ANY orifice without informed consent, it is rape. And coercion of any kind negates consent, informed or otherwise.
After all, itís our hands that will supposedly be used to insert medical equipment (tools of HEALING, for the sake of all that is good and holy) into the vaginas of coerced women.
The writer goes on to suggest an organized protest against the legislation by the doctors expected to implement it:
It is our responsibility, as always, to protect our patients from things that would harm them. Therefore, as physicians, it is our duty to refuse to perform a medical procedure that is not medically indicated. Any medical procedure. Whatever the pseudo-justification.
Itís time for a little old-fashioned civil disobedience.
In practical terms, the writer advocates simply not performing the procedure, unless requested by the patient. The patient should then receive her proper medical care (up to and including the abortion procedure itself), and any necessary submitted documents should simply state that the ultrasound was a) refused, b) not deemed medically necessary.
These bills have been controversial from day one as women’s advocates have labeled them as an attempt to shame and emotionally blackmail women seeking abortions. Some legislators have removed references to specifically transvaginal ultrasounds in responseto public pressure, but it’s been pointed out that any successful ultrasound of a pregnancy in its first trimester would have to be the invasive kind of procedure anyway.
Even as I’ve been writing this, the original post on Whatever has been updated to effectively say that this message is going viral. It may well be that by that by this time tomorrow, a majority of practicing physicians in the United States will have heard about or read this call to action. It remains to be seen how many will respond to the call. We’ll keep you posted.
Photo credit: Wesley Carter, USAF